Undefeated, up-and-coming cruiserweight prospect Richard “Popeye The Sailor Man” Rivera (16-0, 12 KOs) is ready for a breakout year, as he attempts to climb up the divisional rankings, and put himself in a position to challenge for a cruiserweight title by the end of 2020, early 2021, with the help of Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing.
Rivera’s promotional company Hartford Boxing Promotions, which he partnered with his longtime trainer and manager Tony Blanco, and Hartford Boxing Center gym co-owner Michael Tran in June 2018, reached a co-promotional deal with Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing, in the summer of 2019. After he signed with Star Boxing, he has fought five times in the last six months, and has done so against better competition.
“I signed with Star Boxing because I wanted to take my career to the next level, and I believe that they can take me to where I want to go,” said Rivera. “Star Boxing will make me a more recognizable name throughout the boxing world, and help me get the bigger bouts that I want.”
Collectively, Rivera and his co-promotional team decided to move up a division, and compete in the cruiserweight weight class, after spending most of his career fighting at light heavyweight, in order to obtain more significant bouts.
“The cruiserweight division is a ghost town right now, and I believe that I can make a name for myself quicker at this weight class than I can at the light heavyweight division because my power, good defense, and elusive fighting style can stand out more at 200-pounds,” said Rivera.
Rivera made his successful cruiserweight debut in his last outing against one-loss Joe Jonas, in mid-December. He easily defeated Jonas with a dominating, eighth-round unanimous decision, in which he won every round on all three judges’ scorecards (80-72). He aggressively chased Jones round the ring throughout the fight, and landed pretty much whatever he wanted in this one-sided bout.
“I fought well, and I stuck to my game plan,” said Rivera. “Some people might think that it was disappointing performance because I did not knock him out, but it is not always about knocking your opponents out. I won, I did not get hurt, and I get to move onto bigger fights.”
Even though Rivera is focused on fighting in the cruiserweight division, if the right opportunity presented itself at light heavyweight, he would not hesitate to take the fight.
“My weight fluctuates, so I would not have a problem losing weight to get down to 175-pounds,” said Rivera. “I can easily make that weight, and I would have no problem adding on the weight again to fight at 200-pounds.”
Despite having only sixteen professional bouts, the extremely hardworking, smart, disciplined-oriented, twenty-nine-year-old orthodox fighter from Hartford, Connecticut, has a great deal more experience than the average boxer with a similar number of fights because he has gained invaluable experience by sparring with many great fighters, and has held his own with them. He has been one of the main sparring partners for the last couple of years for former world title challenger Joe Smith Jr. who recently scored a twelfth-round unanimous decision over Jesse Hart, to put himself in position for another world title fight.
“It has been a great learning experience to spar with Joe over the last couple years because he is a tremendous fighter, and a great teacher. He has taught me so much,” said Rivera. “We are extremely close friends, and have a good working relationship with one another. We also push one another in the ring, and in the gym, to make each other better.”
The former UBF New England light heavyweight and ABF Continental Americans cruiserweight titleholder has also sparred with undefeated WBO middleweight world champion Demetrius Andrade and WBA light heavyweight world belt holder Jean Pascal, former world champions and title challengers, Chad Dawson, Marcus Brown, and Peter Quillin, up-and-coming contender Charles Foster, among others.
“People might look at my record and say I have not fought anyone, so I cannot be that good, however, what they do not know is all the work that I have done behind the scenes by sparring with world class fighters, and constantly being in the gym each day tirelessly perfecting my skills,” said Rivera.
He has also gained additional experience and ring skills by being one of the more active fighters in the sport. Rivera fought seven times last year, which is an extremely active fighting schedule, especially nowadays, when the average fighter boxes two to three times a year. Rivera will not slow down next year, as he will be back in the ring in February, two months after his last bout. Throughout his three-year professional career, he has consistently fought every two to three months.
“I like fighting often because it helps me to stay in great shape, and gives me the right mindset,” said Rivera. “Being active allows me to continue to grow my fan base by having them see me in the ring every other month, but more importantly, the more I fight, the better I get.”
What makes Rivera a good fighter is his quick, elusive, action-packed, aggressive fighting style, combined with an impenetrable defense, and uncanny ability to quickly think and adapt in the ring. Even more concerning for his opponents though, is his power. He packs a power punch in both hands that can instantaneously end a fight. This is demonstrated by his knockout percentage of seventy-one, which makes him one of the hardest hitting New England boxing prospects. An example of his power was on display when he knocked down his opponent Randy Campbell to the canvas so hard that he broke his ankle in several places, and had to be lifted out of the ring on a stretcher, just thirty seconds into his seventh fight.
“My knockout power comes from my heart,” said Rivera. “I usually talk to God, and say you gave me that knockout. I ask God to give me the strength for the knockout before every fight, and usually it happens.”
His power-punching fighting style makes his nickname “Popeye The Sailor Man” perfect for him since he closely resembles the iconic comic strip character with his anchor tattoo, massive forearms, and superhuman like strengthen in the ring. He successfully incorporates his Popeye persona by wearing a sailor’s cap, and dangling a corncob pipe from his mouth, before and after fights, and during interviews, and says his catchphrase: “I am Popeye The Sailor Man, and I am strong to the finish because I eat my spinach…toot, toot.”
Rivera’s undefeated record, big knockout victories, and more importantly, his charismatic, friendly personality has endeared himself to fans, and helped him become one of the more popular New England fighters. Early in his career, two to three busloads of family and friends came to his fights to cheer him on. Now, close to 200 fans show up to his bouts to root him on, even when the fight takes place outside of his home state.
“I have an incredible community that supports me. They see me running in the streets, teaching boxing classes, and helping out in soup kitchens. I am extremely involved in my community, and that is why they are very involved in my boxing career,” said Rivera. “It really helps to have a community that is behind you, and I am extremely lucky because a lot of fighters do not have the same support base that I do.”
Rivera, who started boxing before he could read or write, compiled a 40-8 amateur record, which culminated with him reaching the semifinals of the 2016 United States Olympic Trials. He was one fight away from making the United States Olympic Boxing Team, however, he lost to Jonathan Escobar, in a close fight. He won the 2016 Rocky Marciano Tournament, and in 2015, won the Hartford Boxing Tournament, and was runner-up in the Western New England Golden Gloves. During his amateur career, he defeated Elvis Fergus, who was the number one-ranked fighter in his division, and Miguel Tatoe, who was the fourth best boxer in his weight class.
“I did well in the amateurs, but I largely went unnoticed,” said Rivera. “While I did not get the recognition that I wanted, it was still a good experience for me to travel the world, and meet a lot of great fighters, and people in the sport of boxing.”
For more information on Rivera, and the latest updates on his upcoming bouts, friend him on Facebook at Richard Rivera, and add him on Instagram @Popeye The Sailor Man. You can also check out his boxing company Hartford Boxing Promotions on Facebook at Hartford Boxing Center, on Twitter @hartfordboxing, Instagram @hartford.boxing.center, and YouTube: /c/Hartford Boxing Center.
“2019 was good, but 2020 is going to be even better because I am Popeye The Sailor Man and I am strong to the finish because I eat my spinach … toot, toot,” said Rivera.